Stage 6 on paper looked like something that could have being a very easy first 100k on main roads or a really stress full one where we were subjected to crosswinds. In the end it turned out to be something in between. It was chilly enough this morning but dry more worryingly it was windy enough, it looked like we would be subjected to a cross/head wind for most of the day that would have us pinned in the right hand gutter. This is not an ideal day out as riding in the right hand gutter means dodging parked cars and as its day 6 lots of guys are tired and drop the head when the hammer goes down so its important to be near the front at all times.
The stage did not start with an attack straight away but was marked by the Danish and Sparta teams going straight to the front to ride tempo. A number of riders tried to clip away but nothing was sticking I tried to go away with a Derry rider but we were not given the day pass. Passing Kilcoran Lodge John Lynch from UCD was joined by one of the American riders a south Dublin rider and Stephen Halpin and Olan Barrett, that was the break of the day. They were not left go straight away the teams on the front only gradually left the gap go out and they were careful not to let anyone else get across.
It was relatively handy in the bunch passing through Cahir and New Inn as a nature break was called. The gap to the break did not grow too much during the nature break so it showed the lads up front were in for a hard day. I was disappointed to have not made the break originally but seeing the gap grow that slowly made me happy to be in the bunch!
Just after Cashel I was behind a few of the An Post riders one rider wanted to go to the front to try and split the bunch but another rider was saying "do you really want to ride the county riders down", I didn't wait to find out the result of the conversation and quickly plonked myself in the top twenty thankfully an post decided not to go on the attack at that stage but it was a waring that something could happen at any stage. Shortly afterwards there was a crash near the front which served as another warning that it could split at any moment, Mick Fitz had picked this moment to have his third puncture in the three days, shortly afterwards himself and Mike would be caught out in a split down the back. Up front there was still a lot of tension in the bunch I was feeling very good and was enjoying the constant jostling for position to stay in the top 30 and more importantly stay on the right hand side of the bunch and out of the wind.
There was very few county riders lurking around the front, lots of the pros were not taking kindly to me trying to crash there party and I had to endure a few guys trying to literally push me out of the line, I was not getting too stressed about it as the legs were good and we were not riding full gas. Timmy Barry saw this happening once and offered the following words of wisdom "hit him a box Johnny" I will bear that in mind the next time!!!
At one stage the Belgiums charged to the front of the bunch en mass to try and split it but did not have the legs to do it, An Post also tried the same coming into Urlingford but with the same result. If the wind had being only a little bit stronger it would have split but it was just on the manageable side.
We turned off the main road in Urlingford an headed for Freshford and Ballyraggart. We were really moving on these roads as we had a tailwind I continued to annoy the "pros" by lurking around the front I can understand why some would be stressed by dealing with a county rider that they don't know but some of these lads really believe they belong in the tour the way they carry on.
Turning right in Ballyraggart we hit the first climb of the day that was tackled easily enough, down to Castlecomer through great crowds we started the next cat 3 which was very handy and was more about getting into a good position for the 1st cat climb. I had done these climbs only last week in training and knew that this was not a real first cat, it was 1.7k in the book but i knew it flattened after 1k so i said to myself i have to stay in the big ring and just horse the gear as much as possible over the climb, it would not be pretty but i knew if i got over this climb in the front I would finish in Carlow in the front group this was the stage I had targeted as regards getting the county prize, i have never being on the podium in the ras so i was running out of chances.
Onto the climb and a few attacks were launched I was just focused on the wheel in front and managed to stay glued into the front group, objective no1 achieved. The next 2nd cat was also very short and was another one I knew would require a big effort in the big ring and i was over it. We flew down the descent to it over a small bridge and next thing a crash, it happened about 10 riders in front of me, I didn't come off but came to a complete standstill and my legs exploded trying to get the 53X17 going again. Fortunately I managed to get going again with Ryan Sherlock, Damien Shaw, Chris O'Reilly, Thomas Martin and eventual stage winner Rico Rodgers and one of his team mates we worked together and managed to get back on. Rodgers was one of the riders getting up my nose earlier on (and vice versa i am sure) but he was glad of the county riders at this stage!
Unfortunately we only got back on just as we started the last 2nd cat, I was feeling the effects of the chase back on at this stage and was second last man starting the climb, it was steep early on and very draggy and exposed at the top. I was starting to crack the further up it we went I was still second last man but the last man saw what was coming and moved around me which gave a bit of relief into the last 200meters I blew and the wheel went, the gap was only small but it would be enough to say goodbye to me, thankfully it didn't grow and over the top i was able to get going again and knew i would get back on as the group had spread across the road on the descent.
Unfortunately as I was just about to swing out onto the road that the Des Hanlon goes up I hit a hole in the road and the chain hopped off the big ring and got jammed between the frame. I couldn't pedal and there was no car for service so i had to hop off the bike to put the chain back on, it had managed to loop around its self twice so took a few seconds to sort but if it took 1 second or 10 it was one too many as I knew that the road was dragging up now with no cavalcade there was no way back.
I just sat up and waited for the second group and rode a very sulky last 15k into Carlow, but that's cycling you have to take the good with the bad but its sickening when a mechanical gets in the way of a result.
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